Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Around the World in Los Angeles

One of the most amazing things about living in L.A. is all of the culinary diversity. Not only do we have so many restaurants to try, but the little markets tucked in mini malls and tiny corner storefronts are one of our cities treasures. With hundreds of Latino, Asian, Cuban, Russian and Armenian markets in almost every given neighborhood it is a wonderful opportunity to talk to cooks from all over the world. I have learned so much about everyday cooking in other countries. Things that seemed complicated like Thai green curry seem so simple when explained by someone who makes it for her family as often as I roast a chicken. Sometimes I get really board with my own recipes that I just spend an afternoon perusing isle after isle of different foods. O.K…there are a few things that seem unfamiliar and a bit scarry! The other great thing about these mainly family owned shops are that they are so much cheaper than the regular market! I found a beautiful filet mignon for $6.99 a pound at a local Cuban market! I invite you to explore these little cultural centers and expand your cooking repertoire as well.

Green Chicken Curry
This green curry is rich and creamy with just the perfect kick. It is so simple to make so don’t be intimidated if some of the ingredients seem unfamiliar. Most are available at a good super market and all are available at an Asian market. Be sure to remove the lemongrass stalks and lime leaves before serving, as they are really stringy and tough to eat. Keep in mind that you can make it with shrimp, or vegetarian. I like it with the snow peas, but you can use any vegetable you like.

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons green curry paste
1 1/2 pound boneless chicken breast, cut bite size
4 kaffir lime leaves
2 lemon grass stalks, bruised and cut
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 pound snow peas
15 basil leaves

In a wok or frying pan heat the oil. Add the green curry paste and stir-fry until bubbly and fragrant. Add the chicken, kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass. Cook until the chicken is cooked through. Add the snow peas and cook for another minute. Stir in the coconut milk and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer and stir occasionally for 5 minutes. Stir in the basil and serve over rice.

Filet mignon in a Shallot Cabernet sauce

The filet mignon that comes from the Cuban Market is so reasonable that you can play with sauces and ways of cooking. It is really great grilled and if you have enough people you can get a large cut make small incisions all around and add whole cloves of garlic. Roast on 425 for about 10 minutes a pound.

4 6-ounce 1-inch thick filet mignons
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-cup cabernet wine (can substitute any dry red wine)
1 shallot finely chopped
3 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons butter

Coat steaks lightly with olive oil and season both sides with salt and pepper. In a heavy frying pan over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sear the steaks, moving them with tongs a little so they don't stick to the bottom, for 5 to 6 minutes per side. When the steaks are crusty-charred remove from the pan, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest 5-10 minutes before serving. Add juices that accumulate from resting steaks to wine sauce. In the same pan sauté garlic and shallot for two minutes. Add the wine to the pan and bring to a boil, scraping any pieces of steak off the bottom of the pan and stirring them into the emerging sauce. Let the liquid boil until reduced to approximately 1 cup. Remove pan from heat. Gently whisk in the butter. Pour the sauce over the steaks just before serving.

At the Armenian market I was turned on to this wonderful dip. They use it to dip veggies as a sandwich spread or with pita bread. You can add a few hot peppers if you like a bit of a kick. The color is so spectacular that I love to serve it in an over sized basil lined Martini glass.

2 eggplants
6 red bell peppers
3 cloves garlic
Juice of one lemon
1/2-cup olive oil,
Parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 350. Bake eggplants and peppers until tender when pierced with a fork. Peel skin from hot vegetables and place in a food processor.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and add the garlic and lemon juice. And olive oil and pulse. You want it to be pureed, but coarsely. Chill or serve warm sprinkled with parsley!